Prior to leaving Hawaii in 2012, I took an aerial silks class with several girlfriends and we loved it. Our classroom was a park in Hawaii Kai, and the silks we used to learn to climb were rigged in an old, rugged tree. I tried to find classes in Tampa Bay that offered aerial silks but didn’t have any luck until two months ago, when I saw the Aerial Dragons perform live on silks and a lyra, a suspended hoop, at Gasparilla Music Festival. I realized a studio offering classes, The Keep, had opened up at a crossfit gym in Ybor about a year ago. I quickly registered for a beginning silks class and convinced one of my girlfriends to come with me on a Saturday morning.
We had so much fun! Our instructor was wonderful – very encouraging and supportive, and she taught us quite a few tricks in our 90 minute session. We learned the basic climb, how to wrap the silk around your leg, and use your arms and legs to pull yourself up into a standing position and repeat to slowly make your way up the silk. We were also able to go upside down which we incorporated into a short but fun routine. I knew I was hooked. I was very excited to learn the studio offered classes on many different circus apparatus, including the trapeze, lyra and cube, and Spanish rope. Flying on a trapeze had immediate appeal to me so I signed up for my first trapeze class the following week.
The Sunday after my aerial silks class, my boyfriend and I went to Empower Adventures, a zipline and aerial obstacle facility that recently opened up in Oldsmar. We spent a fun afternoon traversing 5 ziplines and completing several obstacles including rope and cable bridges, and a log swing. The only drawback was waiting for everyone to take a turn completing each zip or obstacle so there was a little more standing around and waiting then we would have liked. The highlight, and what I considered to be a terrifying obstacle involved climbing up a 20 foot telephone pole, standing on your feet on the top with nothing to hold onto or use to pull yourself up onto, and then jumping off of the top (while in a harness and attached to a belay line of course so it wasn’t a free fall). I don’t mind climbing up things but I have a fear of heights and jumping off of things so I knew it was going to push me way outside of my comfort zone.
One of the other guys in our group of 10, volunteered to try it first. He didn’t have much problem climbing up but once at the top, he wasn’t able to pull himself into a standing position. He ended up “jumping” off the side of the pole and being belayed down. Two teenage boys in our group completed the task easily and I wasn’t sure if seeing them do it was reassuring me or making me more nervous as more time passed to opt out of the activity. Another guy successfully completed it but his friend butt scooted into a jump from the top which I thought, worst case scenario, I could go for the butt scoot too. Eric went next and made it seem effortless. He had no problem getting on his feet at the top of the pole and jumping off. I was next. I climbed up but as I expected, struggled to make the final push onto both feet on the top. I had one foot up, with my leg bent, but couldn’t bring myself to push up all the way. Eric and the rest of our group below were cheering me on and offering advice on how to best stand up. I think I was probably in a half squatting position for almost 10 minutes before I somehow managed to accomplish a fully upright position! It was liberating and I felt very proud of myself. Next was the jump, which took a few more minutes of contemplation before I was able to do it. My heart was racing as our group leader lowered me to the ground, but I felt accomplished for facing two of my fears.
In continuing my adventures in aerial sports, I attended the trapeze class on Tuesday evening. The class was fairly large and had varying levels in it; one other woman and myself were the only brand new students. We both jumped right in though and completed the warm up of pulling yourself up and over the bar 10 times. Our instructor, the founder of the Keep, was wonderfully supportive, and she showed us moves to work on under the direction of more advanced students while other aerial enthusiasts used the main bar in the class to elaborate on a routine they were learning. Once we successfully mastered a few moves on the bar, we then went to the main bar to serve as flyers to the students who were the base. As a base, you have to hang upside down on the trapeze with your knees hooked over the bar, and as the flyer, you grasp the forearms of the base and pull yourself upside down and into various positions. It was quite challenging but also an amazing experience and I knew I would be back the following Tuesday for more.